BERGERAC, SoMa (316 11th Street between Folsom and Harrison, 415-255-9440)
Tonight I had an early sneak peek (and taste) of the cocktail menu at Bergerac, opening this Saturday, September 21, in SoMa. The brand new bar/restaurant space is inspired by the legendary Villa Nellcote mansion on the Côte d’Azur in France, where the Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main St. in 1972. In keeping with the villa’s eclectic decor, the warm, glowing space houses disco balls and chandeliers, clubby leather couches and peacock feathers, cozy nooks and a fireplace.
Call it a bar with food or a restaurant with a heavy cocktail focus, either way, well-crafted drinks co-exist alongside eclectic plates suitable for a meal or a bite. Chef Randy Lewis (a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2001) oversees the food, while Barman Russell Davis (currently on Spike TVs Bar Rescue) assembled the playful drinks menu with Bar Manager Yael Vengrof, who won the first National Speed Rack competition in 2012 and has ‘tended bar in NY and LA.
Previewing the cocktails a week before opening, I look forward to trying Chef Lewis’ dishes ($816), like black pudding (blood sausage) encasing a freezer-cured yolk, then fried in Anchor Summer Beer tempura, or Fiscalini Vintage Bandaged Cheddar gougéres with Highland Scotch fondue (yes!) Fascinating-sounding bar bites and dishes abound.
Davis’ bar program is as fun and thoughtful as one would expect (witness some of the magic he’s created at places like Ice Cream Bar). For groups of friends, there’s $75 carafes of cocktail specials shaken tableside in gorgeous, vintage shakers.
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Cocktails ($912) are unusual enough to remain interesting, while veering away from fussy, grouped by sections offering a little something for everyone: Approachable, Complex, Communal, Low Octane, High Octane.
Live and Let Die (appreciate the McCartney/Wings reference) is a textured cocktail from pisco washed with coconut oil, balanced by the sweet bitter of Campari, sweet vermouth (a Carpano Antica, Dolin, Punt e Mes house blend) and Fruit Loops foam – you heard right: Fruit Loops are soaked in water, mixed with simple syrup, foamed up in a canister with egg whites. Even a Dirty & Shaken (yes, shaken) Martini becomes accessible for the non-vodka drinker when Purity Vodka is given a tinge of celery shrub and kalamata olive brine for a savory yet still clean effect.
Trust me when I say, you should order the chocolate mint soda to end all chocolate mint sodas: Annie Forget Your Gun. Mint liqueur Branca Menta is stirred with a house Scharffen Berger chocolate syrup, then injected with fizz from phosphate and soda water. It’s low alcohol, lush, minty, invigorating, delicious.
Given the combination of understated artistry and a space and menu set up to inspire good times, consider the new Bergerac one to watch.